When Elizabeth Taylor passed away in March, I assumed that a bidding war would erupt over some of the key stories in her life. As it happened, pursuit of one of those tales took a couple months, and now Paramount has ended up with the rights.

I’m talking specifically about the passionate affair between Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, which has been part of classic Hollywood legend for decades after blossoming on the set of Cleopatra in the early ’60s and extending through two marriages into 1976. The book Furious Love, by Sam Kashner and Nancy Schenberger, recounts the affair, and the studio plans to develop it as a directorial project for Martin Scorsese.

Deadline has the news. Martin Scorsese, of course, is one of the most enthusiastic Hollywood historians around. His interest in the story makes perfect sense, and is in fact one of the factors that elevates this from just another dim retelling of a legendary pop-culture romance and into something potentially interesting.

The story of the Taylor/Burton romance is inexorably tied to the time in which it took place. Legions of paparazzi had not yet proliferated, and while film stars enjoyed (or suffered) magazine and tabloid coverage, their lives were not as relentlessly pursued as they are now. Both stars globally-recognized personalities, and both were married when they got together. Their relationship was condemned by the Vatican at a time when such a thing had a lot more power. It was, in short, a Big Deal at a time when there were a lot fewer things competing to be big deals.

No screenwriter has been hired at this point, so we can’t make any predictions on the particulars of how this story might begin to be channeled onto film. There is enough here that I can see Martin Scorsese doing something special with it, but this could also turn into another project that is developed and then passed on to someone else.

This isn’t the only old Hollywood tale that has caught Scorsese’s interest, as he has also worked to develop films about both Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra. But before this one can go anywhere he’ll have to finish Hugo Cabret, possibly make Silence and/or The Five Obstructions, and then figure out how to prioritize the many other films on his plate.

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